The very question may make you twist up your face in scepticism. Surely this is a case of anthropomorphism at its most absurd. After all, loyalty is the sort of quality we like to think distinguishes us from animals – not to mention microbes. Loyalty demands steadfast dedication in the face of temptation. It requires us to make noble sacrifices, to give up selfish interests for something beyond ourselves – whether it be a nation, a church, a principle, a friend.. How could an amoeba display such nobility of spirit?
Fair enough. But consider this: would you twist up your face if someone said his dog was loyal?
Somehow that doesn’t sound so absurd. People call their dogs loyal all the time, and the word seems to fit. Dogs are faithful to their owners, not trotting away with the first stranger to give them a biscuit. They will even make sacrifices for their owners, as testified by the cases of dogs that rescue their owners from floods and fires. They meet the criteria for loyalty, or at least a nonhuman version of it.
No one would argue that in some ways human loyalty is unique. But as dogs show us, some of the behaviour that underlies our concept of loyalty is not limited to our own species. Biologists have discovered examples of this nonhuman loyalty in many species, including amoebae. By studying the evolution of loyalty in these organisms, scientists are gathering clues to the origin of loyalty in our own species.
Biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.
Diplozoon paradoxum are monogamous and more faithful to each other than any other .only species in nature that doesn’t commit adultery and in which there seems to be one hundred percent monogamy is a flatworm, Diplozoon paradoxum. The male and female worms meet as adolescents, and their bodies literally fuse together. Males and females meet each other during their juvenile stage, and their bodies completely fuse together, whereupon they remain faithful until death.
So if you were seeking loyalty better you should have married to Diplozoon paradoxum.”